Gay marriage comes to Alabama over chief judge’s objections _lowres

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2014 file photo, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court addresses a Pro-Life Mississippi and a Pastors for Life luncheon in Jackson, Miss. Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, despite an 11th-hour attempt from Moore — an outspoken opponent — to block the weddings. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

It's been a quarter century since Louisiana-grown political consultant James Carville helped steer Bill Clinton under the guiding principle that "it's the economy, stupid." The line, though, remains an evergreen nugget of political wisdom.

In fact, it might be a theme for Alabama business leaders looking to avert the mortification of electing the most divisive candidate in recent memory, Roy Moore, to the U.S. Senate in next week's special election.

Moore's possible elevation to the seat held for years by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was problematic before the Washington Post started digging into his background with teenage girls. Even before Moore emerged as the Republican nominee, his history of defying court orders — one to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court and one to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage — had twice cost him a post as chief judge on the state Supreme Court, and his hateful remarks toward gay people and Muslims had made him a fringe figure. Credible reports that Moore has a history of pursuing, pestering and pushing himself on girls as young as 14 dramatically ramped up the alert level.

Yet despite all the horrifying publicity, Alabama is a deep red state, and national Republicans don't want to lose a Senate seat they believe is rightfully theirs. President Donald Trump remains a supporter, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dialed back his condemnation. Despite the presence of perfectly respectable Democrat Doug Jones on the ballot, Moore could very well win this thing.

And that, according to several recent news stories, has some of the state's economic promoters sweating.

"Anything that makes Alabama look backward does not bode well for the business climate," Jennifer Skjellum,the outgoing president of the recruitment organization TechBirmingham, told NPR.

"Roy Moore is a disaster for business and economic development," said Susan Pace Hamill, who teaches business law at the University of Alabama, in the same story. "He was a disaster even before the allegations ... . The fear is that his presence will tip the scales, causing the business to choose somebody else." The Wall Street Journal ran a similar story this week.

The election comes at a time when Birmingham, like many other cities, is trying to lure Amazon's new second headquarters. It's a long shot, but a Moore victory may be so off-putting to an image-conscious company looking to recruit a young and educated workforce that it could be disqualifying. The same would go for just about any firm with similar concerns, including more likely "gets." That's got to be particularly frustrating to those who've worked hard to cultivate the city's reputation as a civic-minded urban center with a burgeoning food scene and highly rated medical center.

The concern, though, also offers the roots of a political argument, one that's seen some success in other conservative locales, including Louisiana. When former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke made the 1991 gubernatorial runoff against Edwin Edwards, one of the more effective arguments against Duke was that his ascent would isolate the state economically.

More recently, similar campaigns bolstered by big business have staved off laws that would have given private businesses license to discriminate against gay couples in Indiana, and restricted bathroom use by transgender people in Texas. Louisiana actually benefited from the passage of such a law in North Carolina when the NBA relocated this year's All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans in protest. League leaders cited the city's progressive policies and Gov. John Bel Edwards' nondiscrimination executive order — which he's had to defend in court against Attorney General Jeff Landry — as positive signals.

One up side to this approach is that it sidesteps party politics and aims straight at economic self-interest.

It also offers Alabamians the chance to decide, and to tell the world, if electing this horribly flawed candidate is really more important than declaring the state open for business.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.